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  • Letters to the Editors

    ©St. Petersburg Times, published July 15, 1997


    The Rev. Lyons was wrong to play the race card

    The Rev. Henry Lyons is blaming the media for a lot of his troubles, claiming they are showing their bias against a black political/religious leader.

    When the media jumped on Jerry Falwell for his inflammatory remarks, when they headlined Jim Bakker's scamming of his contributors and when they exposed Jimmy Swaggart's cavorting with prostitutes, was that playing the race card against white religious leadership? Do I smell a double standard here, or a cop-out and scape-goating that will sit well with the Rev. Lyons' congregation?
    --Jack J. Reilly, St. Petersburg

    Judged for his character, not color

    In response to the recent accusations against the Rev. Henry Lyons, I just have to say I am disgusted. The findings of his ties to a convicted embezzler are enough to make me doubt his credibility. But the real reason for my disgust is racism.

    Anyone who has read the newspaper or watched television news in recent days hase seen Lyons blast the media for their alleged racist views and more. Elijah Gosier of the Times, and other African-Americans seen on television, have denounced the words of Lyons, and for good reason. Lyons, has not been attacked for the color of his skin, but for the content of his character.

    What's worse is that by blaming everyone but himself, he has set a bad example for the members of the community who look to him for guidance, especially, the children of his congregation, who might not know any better. How are we to achieve equality in this country -- especially this community -- when people such as Lyons do not attempt to help, but rather hurt relations with ballyhoo. Gosier put it best: "This man belittled the experience of every black man who really suffers an injustice because of his color."

    I will not lay blame for the fire that burned his Tierre Verde home, or why he is associating with an ex-con, or even if his riches are earned honestly. But I will ask the Rev. Henry Lyons to apologize to the community for the words he spoke that so wrongly accused the media for bringing this situation under tight scrutiny.
    -- Russell Francis, St. Petersburg

    The Cochran of the ministry

    Henry Lyons is the Johnny Cochran of the ministry. He has blatantly used the race card; but what is missing is a Mark Fuhrman.

    At the very least, the Rev. Lyons is guilty of poor judgment -- which in itself is enough to compromise his leadership.

    I resent the fact that he is seeking refuge with the black press and black audiences because it suggests that he thinks that his fellow blacks are so stupid that we will believe in him no matter what he says or does not say. I pray that he is wrong.
    -- George A. Persons, Longwood

    The reverend learned well

    Re: Baptist leader says he's been persecuted, July 12.

    It remains to be seen how culpable the Rev. Lyons is in the matters now in the public eye. No one -- black or white, green or purple -- should have his or her problems adjudicated in the media.

    However, Dr. Lyons disappointed me when he played the race card. Why couldn't he stand up and take it like a man? He has learned well from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and attorney Johnnie Cochran.
    -- R. N. Goodling, New Port Richey

    Tax money well spent

    After reading the ongoing saga of the good Rev. Dr. Henry J. Lyons in the July 9Times and seeing the accounting of his assets I am heartened. I was worried that my taxes were being wasted by the government. But my worries were unfounded. My tax contribution to his church has afforded the "pope" with all those wonderful perks of his profession. I feel so much better now. I only hope that the other trusted partner, Bill Clinton, will make sure that the IRS turns a blind eye to all this heavenly money being spent by "Pope Henry I" and the tax exempt organizations he leads.
    -- Edward J. McDougall, Sr., Spring Hill

    It is not ours to judge

    I don't know the Rev. Lyons or the circumstances surrounding the fire. I refuse to make a judgment call on anyone involved. When it comes to suggesting that he couldn't possibly earn a salary to support his lavish lifestyle, I find it extremely offensive. If we are in essence going to audit Rev. Lyons, I suggest we also audit the Rev. Billy Graham, the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the dalai lama, and the pope.

    There is only one judge.
    -- Karen Burton, Dunedin

    Story is bigger than the picture

    Re: Small fire illuminates a world of whispers, July 9.

    Once again, Elijah Gosier has written an excellent column, telling it how it is and how only he can tell it.

    As a white woman who worked a short while in the black community, I can say I've been inside "the shell" if only as a visitor. However, my experiences there have helped me better understand the black community as a whole.

    Gosier's poignant column regarding the Rev. Henry Lyons is a prime example of his ability to see the whole picture and report on it as such. I hope that those of you in the black community are listening, because, as Gosier so aptly wrote, "This isn't just a story about Henry and Deborah Lyons."
    -- E. A. Axtell, St. Petersburg

    Amen to Gosier column

    In response to Elijah Gosier's July 12 column regarding the Dr. Henry J. Lyons press conference (As disgrace mounted, they all just said amen), I believe that he spoke for the majority of honest and decent people in this community and everywhere. Amen! Amen! Amen!
    -- Doris Swangles, St. Petersburg

    * * *

    Re: Elijah Gosier's July 12 column.

    Amen!

    I'm sure I will be one of many who send this. Why not list us all, like a class action suit?
    -- Don E. Jones, Safety Harbor

    * * *

    Re: Elijah Gosier's July 12 column.

    Elijah, AMEN!!
    -- Mark Mulhollan, St. Petersburg

    * * *

    Thank you, Elijah Gosier, for speaking a strong, true word about the Rev. Henry Lyons as only you can say it -- adding to the truth of it with a deep poetic rhythm, like the mournful sounding of a gong: They all just said amen.
    -- Luida Hope, Tampa

    Lyons offered city as a lamb

    Henry Lyons offered up the city of St. Petersburg as a sacrificial lamb for his sins. And that perhaps, was the greatest sin of all.

    As the reactions of horror and revulsion and shame begin to subside, allowing for rational thought, the genesis of Lyons' attempt at damage control is stunningly evident. This is exactly the program his friend, Bill Clinton, has been using with such breathtaking success these past several years.

    First, deny, deny, deny -- categorically deny. In the face of common sense, in the face of written evidence, in the face of witness testimony, in the face of known facts, in the face of obvious truth, deny, deny, deny.

    Second, attack the messenger, attack the motives of the messenger, attack the reputation of the messenger, attack the friends of the messenger, attack, attack, attack.

    Third, change the focus of the subject. If your hand is caught in the cookie jar: Talk about the long and honorable history of the firms which, while employing thousands, have made cookie jars a tradition in the American kitchen. Profess your scorn for these people who would question the noble, time-honored importance of said cookie jars. A bittersweet memory of your grandmother's apple-shaped cookie jar and her efforts to have it always full for you, even as the grim days of the Depression grew even more desperate and the lines of worry etched ever more deeply into her dear face, would be most appropriate and beneficial here. Challenge your audience to join with you in repelling this unwarranted attack on the humble cookie jar and renew your own vow to defend the cookie jar as it represents all that is good, and proud and strong in our society.

    I hope that Henry Lyons has chosen a "cookie jar" so sacred, so important to all of us that we will not tolerate his despicable attempt to twist it into a hook with which he can haul himself out of the immoral cesspool into which his chosen behavior has dumped him, his family and his church.
    -- Nancy Grant Heston, Brandon

    The press conference

    Re: The Rev. Henry Lyons' press conference.

    I am appalled, angry, and insulted. I am appalled that Rev. Lyons had the gall to call that a press conference. Angry because he, who is supposed to be a leader in the community and in the country, could only answer by trying to make his scandal a racial issue. I am very insulted that he would think so little of all of us that he thought that he could really say nothing (that's exactly what was said at that press conference) and that would be acceptable. There are many questions that he needs to answer, not only to his congregation and the National Baptist organization that he leads, but also to the community. He has presented himself as a leader in the black community of St. Petersburg, and the nation. If he can not respect all of us, then how can we believe him? I really feel sorry for his wife. That "stand by your man" mentality is sad. I am embarrassed for her.
    -- Maggie Sheppard, St. Petersburg

    Who can young people trust?

    Though I am a secular humanist, I am not gloating over the revelation of the Rev. Henry Lyons' misconduct. Instead I am appalled at the downfall of yet another "Christian" leader. That a prominent figure in a religion that supposedly promotes the highest ethics should so betray his trust is sickening.

    What of the girls and boys we all so desperately want to abjure deceit and greed and lust? Have they not seen that even highly touted moral teachers can have feet of clay? The Lyons case is not connected with the "immoralities" of TV or the crudities of the print media.

    Where are these young people to turn for guidance? Or will they not bother any more about rules of conduct? Will cynicism take over, making them despise Lyons not for what he did, but for getting caught?
    -- Abigail Ann Martin, Valrico

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